Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? So true in both the business world and personal relationships.
I worked in an independent insurance brokerage for 22 years. I loved the company I worked for; it has won many “Best Places” awards and in the time I was there it went from a small local agency to an agency with a respected nationwide presence. I went into an office for the majority of my tenure there and for a long time I felt this was the only real way to get work done. After all, I was either in a role where I was supporting a producer or I was a manager – how else could the real work get done but to be in the office? How would I develop a rapport with my colleagues? How would I keep my finger on the pulse of what needed to be done?
Interestingly, when I left that retail agency I took a job where I am now a remote worker 100% of the time. This experience has provided a revelation to me: I’m more connected now to the people I currently work with than I was after 20 years in an office. How can that be possible?!
The answer is simple. My interactions with my co-workers are valuable and more meaningful in ways now than they were during my office days. When I interact with my fellow workers now we spend time on things that really matter – whether business related or personal. There’s no need to feel like we’re making small talk that really is just small…talk, chatting to fill time before a meeting starts, or having a “polite” conversation with someone we bump into in the hall. Don’t get me wrong – in person interaction is wonderful and necessary. And, we have those interactions at my current company during the twice-yearly retreats where the entire company gets together to strategize, brainstorm, enjoy each other’s company, participate in charity events, and be goofy. But we’re very real during these times (even when goofy) because we must be. We simply don’t have the excess time with each other that we might have in a traditional office setting so we strip away the “polite” small talk and use the precious time we have together to form strong working and personal relationships with each other.
And, in between the retreats, our daily phone calls or video conferences with each other are not mired in conversations we feel we must have but rather they are real substantive dialog that is refreshing and purposeful.
In the old office environment, just before I left, I had someone tell me that the “swivel” was the most important part of working. He meant that it was important to be in an office so that you could literally “swivel” your chair and look a co-worker in the eye to discuss the matter at hand. I couldn’t disagree more. In fact, I think relying on a swivel to get important work done is the very opposite of where the world of work is headed. Relying on each other’s capabilities, trusting each other’s work ethic, allowing work and life to truly balance as they should, and interacting thoughtfully, are much more valuable than any turn in an office chair ever could be. That, and maybe not actually seeing your co-workers every day too, it turns out. – Elizabeth Kordek, CPCU
This post is part of our Making Wahves series that highlights members of the WAHVE team.